Travel photographer and writer, Kathryn Burrington took an opportunity on a recent trip to The Gambia to meet some of the people we work with and also volunteer Anke who was working on the Wealth Creation volunteer project. A week previously Kathryn and Sallie had met up for the first time – having been twitter friends for ages!
“When most people think of volunteering abroad they imagine having to stay in very basic accommodation or perhaps living with a local family where they can really get to know the culture and this in itself is part of the attraction. In the past it was taken for granted that volunteering had to involve some kind of deprivation on the part of the volunteer but the award-winning company People and Places take a very different approach.
“Some of our volunteers choose projects where the only available accommodation is a tent, but many more have a range of options and can choose to live with local families or in a locally owned guesthouse or hotel. We believe that effective and responsible volunteering is all about skills transfer – working with local people to help them build the future they want for themselves – and if volunteers are comfortable with their surroundings, they can achieve far more!” says Sallie Grayson, Programme Director, People and Places “
“I was really impressed not just with what People and Places do but also with the way they do it. Volunteer tourism has a got a rather bad name for itself and I’ve heard a few horror stories such as instances where local teachers have been dismissed because the school knew that a volunteer teacher was coming or where volunteers have turned up at a community who didn’t know they were even coming.
People and Places take their responsibilities to both the local community and the volunteer very seriously, ensuring that both benefit from the experience. The volunteers always work alongside the community and never instead of. The volunteering is all about exchanging skills. For example, volunteer teachers always work alongside a local teacher and if the local teacher doesn’t turn up for a few days they are under strict instructions not to work until they return. That ensures that the teacher is not being lazy and thinking they can have some time off. It is also a way of checking that the school hasn’t dismissed the teacher thinking that the volunteer will do the work.
So often, in other organisations, the volunteer does what they think a community needs rather than what the community actually needs and the host community is too polite to say ‘no’ and will say ‘yes’ to any suggestion, irrespective of whether they actually think it will be useful.”
Thanks Kathryn for a great article – and its is SO true – volunteers do not have to rough it - the most important thing is that they share tei r skills – read the full article here